The greatest cost of living overseas, aside from giving up time spent with family and friends, is the succinct inability to form solid roots in any one place. This is something I have learned many times over.
Gifted with a father who builds cable-stayed bridges for a living (awesome), I spent much of both my primary and secondary school years moving from one city to the next. On one hand, I was introduced to the world at an early age and developed a keen interest for travel and discovering new places through a cultural lens far removed from my own. On the other hand, it deemed three years at any one school a ‘lengthy tenure’.
Overall, this was great from a character building perspective…not so much from a friendship building perspective. Whilst everyone around me had developed solid relations with kids they had known since kindergarten, I was, more often than not, the outsider that breezed through – in one year, out the next.
I spent my final two years of high school in Sydney, and it was during this short period that I was lucky enough to gather my two best friends: B1 and B2.
Until this day, any time that we find ourselves to be within close geographical proximity, extreme lengths are taken to be reunited. Over my most recent trip back home, the chosen destination was Byron Bay, on the east coast of Australia.
It was here we spent a very relaxed ten days catching up on the past year whilst doing what we do best: long, lazy lunches bookended by far too many cocktails and fuelled in the middle by just the right amount of rosé. Three Blue Ducks’ new Byron Bay venture proved to be the perfect enabler and we spent a wonderfully sunny weekday afternoon at The Farm.
According to their website, The Farm is principally a working farm that houses a collection of micro-businesses, all of which share a common goal – to grow, feed and educate. Its eighty hectares are harnessed to grow fruits, vegetables and flowers utilising sustainable methods that are 100% spray and chemical free. The grounds are also used to house heritage-breed pigs, heritage Scottish Highland cattle and chickens. Everything is served or sold at the onsite restaurant, cafe and produce store.
Beginning as every good lunch should, we got the ball rolling with Three Blue Ducks’ version of a Bloody Mary. The Hail Mary (AU$15) had vodka, house-spiced tomato juice, kombucha and chilli. It probably could have done with slightly less chilli, as it seared the crap out of my tongue. However, flavour-wise it was delicious and I soldiered through to the spicy end.
We managed to squeeze in a few more, as the wait for a table amounted to well over an hour.
Once seated, The Pirate – B1’s other half – declared that we needed to order a round of oysters with ginger and finger lime dressing (AU$4 each) or the entire day would be ruined. Oysters for everyone! They were predictably good. I do so miss our Sydney Rocks when I am abroad…
For starters, we decided to order a handful of small dishes to share, starting with the white fish ceviche (AU$19). Paired with chilli, coconut, paw paw, red onion and coriander, it made the perfect summer dish.
Always easy to share, the ploughman’s board (AU$25) was an obvious choice for the table. It included cured meat, piccalilli, olives, hard cheese and linseed crisps. Whilst the ham was good, the meat selection (or lack thereof) left me wanting.
Suppressing the distressed voice of my stepdaughter in the back of my mind, I reluctantly ordered the tartare (AU$18) whipped up with her favourite animal – kangaroo. Seasoned with eschallots, capers, cornichons and chives, the flavour was on point. However, I tend to prefer my tartare with a chunkier dice as opposed to nearing mince and I could not help but feel her later cries of disappointment were warranted.
Last of the shared starter plates, and perhaps my favourite, were the Clarence River school prawns with kimchi mayo, chilli and lime (AU$19). Eaten whole – shells, head and all – they were crispy and addictively good.
Getting into the healthy lifestyle flow of Byron Bay – and perhaps feeling a little guilty over my Christmas excesses – I chose a wholesome salad (AU$25) as my main. It came loaded with grilled local haloumi, roasted baby beets, pickled carrots, rosemary, thyme, grains and farm leaves. Absolutely delicious. This kind of salad – filled with big flavours and contrasting textures – is something I am only too happy to eat. In fact, I have since made something similar at home…and there was not even a hint of a complaint that dinner was completely meat free!
My dining companions were less interested in ‘rabbit food’ and more into the meat-heavy options. Both B1 and The Pirate automatically went for the slow-cooked coffee rubbed beef brisket (AU$31). It came with a generous pile of chimichurri, as well as mustard seeds, charred bitters and pickled onion. The two of them were happy campers.
B2, on the other hand, was pleased with her choice of pressed lamb with goats cheese cream, zucchini, mint and sugar snap pea salad (AU$33).
A third best friend – Glinda the Good, whom you shall soon meet – jumped straight onto the fresh local line caught fish with grilled asparagus, preserved lemon and hazelnut cream (AU$34). She too enjoyed her plate of food.
Although solid, it was not the simple, wholesome food that won me over. At the end of the day, it was the idea of the venue as a whole and its beautiful outdoor setting that really captured me. At The Farm, the concept of paddock-to-plate is hard to ignore – it is staring you directly in the face from the moment you arrive, from the fields of green to the in-situ livestock – until the minute you leave. Furthermore, a gathering of friends over food and wine on the patio is exceptionally hard to beat. Everything somehow…tastes better.
For what it is worth, the overall impact was so great that I parted with a cookbook of my very own. It currently takes pride of place in a stand on my kitchen counter – after all, there is nothing like bringing a bit of Byron sunshine into my London home in the depths of winter. And it just so happens to be filled with good, honest food that I truly love to eat.
Three Blue Ducks at The Farm
11 Ewingsdale Road
Ewingsdale, NSW, 2481
T: +61 2 6684 7888